Australia-based Lawyer Helps Immigrant Women Adapt Through Sport

She’s an advocate for everything about sport: the physical fitness it builds, the sense of community and belonging it creates, and the confidence it instills. Having had firsthand seen the change in herself through running, Australia-based lawyer Molina Asthana is now out to get other immigrant women out of their homes and into the playing fields.

Born in Delhi to a family of legal luminaries and social activists, Molina completed her BCom and then did her LLB from Delhi University. She had been working as a lawyer at the Supreme Court in Delhi when she had a “sort of an arranged marriage”, and moved to Australia to start her new life. There, she did her Master’s in commercial law, and took up a job at one of Australia’s top law firms.

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With husband Ajay and daughter Diya

Facing unconscious bias and due to the lack of work-life balance, however, she decided to move to the government. She joined the Victorian Government Solicitor’s Office as principal solicitor.

A couple of years after her daughter was born, Molina took up long-distance running as a form of fitness. “We had a lunch-time running group at my workplace,” she recalls. “Sport is a religion in Australia, and somehow, I got inspired to train for half-marathons.” She has run eight half-marathons since.

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Receiving Person of the Year award from former PM John Howard

The confidence boost she got from running triggered her to take up sports advocacy for immigrants, post retirement pathways and leadership skills for elite athletes, and to encourage inclusivity in sports clubs.

“A lot of immigrant women suffer from isolation and depression. Joining a sports club helps in gaining confidence, finding peer support, increasing wellbeing and creating a sense of belonging in a new country,” she explains, adding that there is still much awareness to be generated in this regard.

For this purpose she founded her organization, Multicultural Women in Sport. “Clubs don’t have safe and inclusive spaces for women of migrant backgrounds, so I advocate for women-only spaces and for women to be allowed to play in traditional clothing like the hijab.”

The diversity proponent has received several awards for community service. She is often named in the most powerful Indians’ lists, and is the first Indian-born on the board of the Law Institute of Victoria, besides on various others including Australian Rules Football and Melbourne University Graduate House.

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Receiving the Victorian Multicultural Award from the then Premier of Victoria, Denis Napthine

Her nine-year-old daughter Diya is already a sports buff: she’s learning football, tennis, swimming, gymnastics and ballet. “If you want to integrate with the majority population of your adopted country, join a sport,” Molina signs off.

First published in the March 2018 issue of eShe magazine. Read it for free here.